Katie Rox and Danny Echo have recently returned from a whirlwind trip to Japan for the Kansai Music Conference in Osaka this fall. I caught up with Katie to ask her about her time there and the benefits of the trip.
I know you have been to Japan before, what was the purpose of the return trip and how did that idea come about?
I hadn't been to Japan since I was with my former band (Jakalope), and have always wanted to go back with my solo project but wasn't sure how to go about doing that. I saw Danny Echo's manager post on Twitter (oh the power of Twitter!) about Danny going to Japan for a conference. I expressed interest in wanting to go too...and before you know it, I was submitted, then selected and booking myself a flight!
Your first time there was with label support, how was it different for you this time as an independent artist?
Well for starters, finding my way around places was pretty different! When I was with a label there, we had someone take us everywhere so I never had to think about it. This time, we had some really nice friends who showed us around Tokyo but once we left for Osaka, we were on our own!
I guess the preparation was more involved as well, did you apply for grants and funding for this trip? Did you plan anything that would make your application stand out?
Going to Japan is expensive, so of course we applied for funding (thank you government for having funding opportunities for artists!!). One thing I decided to do with this trip was have someone come along to film the entire trip so that we could use the footage for future EPKs and other marketing. We talked about doing it ourselves but knew how difficult it was going to be just to get around everywhere, never mind trying to remember to pull the camera out at all times, so we recruited a Leo Award nominated producer to join us for filming. We also started a Tumblr page so fans and media could follow along on our trip, we're still updating it and we're posting up weekly 'webisodes'.
Did you connect with fans when you were there? Make new fans and friends?
I was fortunate enough to have some fans already waiting for me when I got there, and then made some new ones along the way. We also made a ton of friends. I miss everyone already!
You guys really packed a lot into your days, including extra shows in Tokyo the day you arrived! Did you feel your time there was too short or just right for your purpose?
It would have been nice to stay longer and just be a tourist! However, that wasn't the purpose of the trip. But there is so much to see and do in Japan that I wish I had extended the trip and had some extra days to just have a vacation!
How long before you can see any statistical evidence that your trip was 'successful' - or what tool are you using to measure your trip/showcase success?
That's a very good question. I have noticed CD sales, twitter and Facebook followers have increased since the trip, so I would say it was a success!
I have heard that the Japanese and Asian markets are hard to 'crack'. Do you feel that is just a North American way of looking at things? And that the music industry is too different over there, to really compare with the North American market?
Well, I think yes and no. It's difficult to be there as an indie artist because people there need to know about you - people in Japan are inundated with music from around the world, and so you need to make it known who you are. That can be hard without label support because it's not just a quick trip there. However, I think it's totally possible if you choose to make it your focus. Japanese website, etc. All of that can really help. Both Danny and I have a Japanese page on our websites.
What are some of the differences of the Japanese market, I saw on your blog that people in Japan still buy a lot of hard copy CDs, and I have heard that they don't really know of or use download cards etc., did you find that to be accurate?
I had download cards with me and people did know how to use them. Again, I was able to track who downloaded the music from there cards and while I was there, the downloads were from Japan! They do, however, still love to buy CDs, (we bought CDs there too!).
How was your genre of music received?
Before committing to go, I did some research because the last time I had been there was with a rock/industrial/pop band and know my music now is totally different. There are artists such as Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson who are very well received in Japan, and so I knew I could fit there too.
Was it a good or bad idea to travel with another artist?
It was such a great idea! I made a new friend (we didn't know each other before the trip, if you can believe that!) and had someone to share the experience with. Seriously, I don't know what I would have done if Danny wasn't there! We even played on some of each others' songs, so it was really helpful too.
Anything you learned that you would pass along to any other artists planning a showcase abroad? Things you wish you had done or thought of?
I would tell people to just go for it! Japan is an incredible place and their music industry is so vibrant. If there is ever any opportunity to go, or if you can create an opportunity - do it!
How are you following up from the trip? Any plans to go back?
I have stayed in touch with several of the people I met. A lot of people from the Japanese music industry attend CMW so I'll see them there too!
I know people can follow your trip, enter contests and catch your upcoming 'webisodes' on your Tumblr Page, and they check out your photos albums on both your facebook pages and websites.
Arigato for chatting Katie ~ !